How can evil and an omnipotent all-benevolent God exist at the same time?
That question has tormented theologians, philosophers and ordinary folks for a long time. It has tormented me for a long time.
Over time I came to be at peace with the issue. I accepted the Free Will Defense. I even eventually sorted out to my satisfaction how to explain natural evil, to which the Free Will Defense was no defense. I was finally satisfied that it could all be explained, without giving up on God.
But the massacre of all those little children in Connecticut has rattled me. I can’t shake from my head the image of those innocent children, huddled together crying and terrified, being brutally murdered one at a time. It is horrible. It is sickening. No amount of theology and philosophy can overcome the horror of that scene.
So where does that leave me? What do I believe?
I’m not sure. But I do know what I don’t believe.
I don’t believe that God allowed, permitted or caused those children to be murdered because he’s angry at us for “taking him out of the schools,” or for tolerating homosexuality, or for permitting abortion, or for any other reason. Those arguments nauseate me. I cannot understand how anyone could worship a god they believe to be that cruel, that vindictive and that petty.
Neither do I believe that the massacre of those little children was somehow part of “God’s plan,” that “God is in control,” that “his ways are not our ways,” that God “has a reason for everything,” that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” or any other such notion that would attribute this horror to God, while suggesting that if we only had his perspective we’d see that this tragedy was actually good, in some mysterious way known only to God.
So if there is a God, and if he is loving and good, why didn’t he prevent the murder of these little children? For that matter, why doesn’t he save the lives of the thousands of children who will starve to death today?
I don’t know for sure. Questions like that gnaw at me. If there is an answer that isn’t despairing, I think it must be something like the one Bart Campolo gives HERE. For now at least, that’s where I am, although I have my doubts about that too.
I do not have answers to all my questions. Almost certainly I never will.
But if there is meaning to our existence, if what we perceive as beauty, joy and peace isn’t just a fantasy, it seems to me it must be because there is an ultimate source of meaning, beauty, joy and peace.
I believe that love wins. I believe that we are on a trajectory toward a complete redemption, renewal and restoration of all creation. I believe that.
Yesterday evening I was sitting outside, waiting for sunset. All day I had felt a great distance between me and God. I was consumed with doubt, thinking constantly of the deaths of those children.
I was listening to music and a song shuffled up. In the glow of dusk, in that music, in those lyrics, in my melancholy, I felt a familiar warmth. I sensed the mystery of God’s presence. “I am here. I am with you all. I love you all.”
A peace settled over me.
We take our questions with us, but we go on.